Saturday, June 03, 2006

Blakeman recants

Mom of Cathedral nest on Angel Gabriel's trumpet [missing its bell]
Photo by Donna Browne, taken just before storm, 6/1/06

This might [or might not] be the final salvo in the Orange Chests skirmish:

I don't want to prolong the banter on the putative proliferation of Pale Male's genes. As all of us have indicated, we are all guessing.
And my guesses I think, now, are wrong. A good red-tail-studying friend of mine called me and said that he has an orange-breasted eyass about ready to fledge from a typical Ohio nest. No pigeons or rats out here.
Others, as you have noted, have claimed wide distribution of this color trait.
Therefore, I recant my suggestions that orange breasts in red-tail eyasses can be caused by the unique food in urban environments. Although I don't recall seeing one of these here in northern Ohio, others have. My suggested explanation is not supported by real data.
The matter is closed. Although uncommon here, the orange-breasted trait is apparently widely distributed elsewhere. Therefore it can't be used as evidence for or against Pale Male's local origin of it, or it's indication of any Pale Male ancestry.
Such is the conduct of evidence-based science.
A related note (perhaps posted tangentially in one of my previous letters -- I've mentioned this somewhere before). The red-tails here in the counties of northern Ohio between Sandusky and Toledo, along the SW coast of Lake Erie, are commonly colored very much like those in the American West. Many of the local birds, including Savanna II, my falconry red-tail, have breasts that are decidedly light brown or gold-tinged, instead of the more typical white tint. I've had falconers look at my bird and wonder why I have a Western subspecies, Buteo jamaicensis calurus, here in Ohio, where the subspecies is the same as in New York, B. j. borealis.
This is a case where a local population has a distinctive, separate plumage coloration. My local birds are only colored like B. j. calurus, specimens. Western red-tails are notably smaller than our eastern birds. My bird is big, as are all the other dark-colored ones. It's a true B. j. borealis. She's just colored like a Western red-tail.
So that should settle the matter. Plumage color isn't going to be much help in determining red-tail genealogies. My contributions haven't been particularly helpful other than to throw out the entire topic. I appreciate the useful contributions of others.
It's back to getting some DNA samples, or getting eyasses color-banded, tasks probably even more difficult than trying to parse ancestry by feather color.

John A. Blakeman

PS from Marie : The headline of this posting was provided by John Blakeman, not by me. Didn't want you to think I was being mean-spirited!